The Christian Brothers Academy of Lincroft golf team won the NJSIAA Tournament of Champions title three straight years from 2017-19, and finished third last year. CBA is tied with Bergen Catholic with 10 TOC championships overall.

But you won’t find coach Tim Sewnig putting that on his team’s list of goals.

“The first step is to get to the states,” said Sewnig, whose squad won the Non-Public A crown last year. “From there we talk about how we match up against other teams. But the first goal is to get to states – and the way to do that is win your dual matches.”

That hasn’t been much of a problem over the past decade, as the Colts have now won 115 straight dual matches dating back to 2011.

But the goals go beyond just state competition.

“We also want to win the (Monmouth) County and (Shore) Conference tournaments,” Sewnig continued. “And then, when we get to states, it’s how you do on any given day. But first things first, we’ve got counties next week.”

The Colts won their opener over Howell, 153-176 Apr. 5. The following day, they competed in the high-level Garden State Cup at Blue Heron Pines Golf Club in Galloway Township. The event featured eight teams that are in NJ.com’s Top 10 state rankings.  

CBA is third on that list, thanks in large part to senior Ethan Lee, one of New Jersey’s top players.

Last year, Lee won the county tournament with a birdie on the first playoff hole and won the Shore Conference Tournament by five shots with a 3-under 69. In the states, he shot 68 but bogeyed the first playoff hole to lose the Non-Public A title by one stroke. That put him in a three-way tie for fourth in the Tournament of Champions.

Lee has looked just as good, if not better this year. During a practice round at Pebble Creek Golf Course in Colts Neck, he shot a 28 on the par-35 front nine and never flinched.

“He leads by example,” said Sewnig, who is a theology teacher at CBA. “He puts up a 28 and you wouldn’t be able to tell, as he was walking up the ninth fairway, if he was winning or losing. He’s the typical golf stoic. The other guys learn a whole heck of a lot from that. The other guys go ‘How’d you do?’ and he’ll say, ‘Not bad.’ They’ll say, ‘What’d you shoot?’ ‘Oh, a 32.’ I wish I had a ‘not bad’ game like that.”

Lee carded a one-under 35 on opening day. His 71 at the Garden State Cup was good for second place, two strokes behind Morristown freshman Liam Pasternak.

“There are no weaknesses to his game,” Sewnig said. “He’s the smallest kid on the team, and frequently the longest off the tee. He’s long and straight, he’s got pretty darn precise irons and he can putt.”

Those talents have landed Lee at Monmouth University next year. He was recruited by head coach Billy Britton, who played 15 years on the PGA Tour.

“In talking to Billy Britton, it struck me he was asking all the right questions,” Sewnig said. “It wasn’t just ‘How did he shoot and what were the numbers?’  but he asked what kind of kid he is – ‘is he a good quality personality and how’s he gonna fit in with other guys?’ I told him he’s a sweetheart of a kid who’d give you the shirt off his back.”

Lee’s ability to be a strong number-one man not only makes a difference on the scorecard, but it also helps ease the pressure for the rest of the lineup.

“My job is to make sure they don’t start depending on that,” Sewnig said. “They’ve gotta rely on their own games. But, for example, we posted a 153 (in the opener) and only had two scores under 40. But that takes the pressure off your two-three-four-five guys. They can go out and play their game and if they’re off a little bit, so what?”  

In the early going, the two-through-five spots are undecided as to what order they will play in. The potential No. 2 is sophomore Evan Sorensen, who played well in last year’s states.

“That’s really saying something, because we had a good team, and for him to basically make the top four and play at the TOC and come through for us was impressive,” Sewnig said. “We’re looking for big things from him. Nothing in the preseason suggests otherwise. He’s as quiet as Ethan, but they learn a heck of a lot from each other.”

Sorensen showed plenty of poise as a freshman, but his coach feels this year will be a good indicator of how well he responds to pressure.

“Last year there was a certain naiveite to being a freshman on a big-time team,” Sewnig said. “He had the luxury of no one expecting a heck of a lot from him. This year I think he’ll see a little more pressure. He’s been playing at the two-three-four for us. We’ll find out if he responds to that. My money’s on him.”

Also in the top five is senior Wyatt Slagle, a co-captain along with Lee. He was among the top five during dual matches last year along with Lee and Sorensen but did not play in the tournaments.

Sewnig is expecting Slagle to blossom this year, saying, “I think he’s ready to break out. He didn’t play a lot of tournament golf for us last year because we were pretty stacked. This year I think he’s ready, he’s frothing at the mouth to play.”

Another senior who the coach said “is salivating and ready to go,” is senior Brian Mastrorilli. Freshman Jonathan Raccuglia shot well in the preseason and broke 40 in the season opener, prompting Sewnig to note, “Every practice round he’s been on top of things. Once in a while there’s a loose stroke but it’s pretty doggone infrequent. “

Freshman Jack O’Connor was also mentioned by the coach as someone who played well in preseason and could see time. It’s a talented cast of golfers to be sure, but the lineup is still a work in progress.

“The door is wide open,” Sewnig said. “We’ve got Ethan and a bunch of guys in the same ballpark shooting the same kind of scores. Somebody is gonna pop up and say, ‘I’m your two-three-four man’ and we’ll figure it out as we go. I would almost guarantee the tournament team we’re playing with (at the Garden State Cup) won’t be the team we play at states. We’re trying to figure it out.”

Fortunately for CBA, he’s sorting things out with a lot of quality pieces to the puzzle.